5th Sunday of Ordinary Time

We have a letter today from Archbishop Carlson.  He writes:

February 1, 2012

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

I write to you concerning an alarming and serious matter that negatively impacts the Church in the United States directly and that strikes at the fundamental right to religious liberty for all citizens of any faith.  The federal government, which was formed to be “of, by, and for the people,” has just dealt a heavy blow to almost a quarter of those people – the Catholic population – and to the millions more who are served by the Catholic faithful.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced last week that almost all employers, including Catholic employers, will be forced to offer their employees health coverage that includes sterilization, abortion-inducing drugs, and contraception.  Almost all health insurers will be forced to include those “services” in the health policies they write.  And almost all individuals will be forced to buy that coverage as a part of their policies.

In so ruling, the Administration has cast aside the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, denying to Catholics our nation’s first and most fundamental freedom, that of religious liberty.  And, as a result, unless the rule is overturned, we Catholics will be compelled either to violate our consciences or to drop health coverage for our employees (and bring about the consequences for all in doing so).  The Administration’s sole concession was to give nonprofit employers, like hospitals and universities, which do not currently provide such coverage, one year in which to comply.

We believe this new requirement signals a direct attack on our religious freedom.  People of faith cannot be made second-class citizens.  We are already joined by our brothers and sisters of all faiths and many others of good will in this important effort to regain our religious freedom.  Our parents and grandparents did not come to these shores to help build America’s cities and towns, its infrastructure and institutions, its enterprise and culture, only to have their posterity stripped of their God-given rights.  In generations past, the Church has always counted on the faithful to stand up and protect her sacred rights and duties.  I hope and trust she can count on this generation of Catholics to do the same.  Our children and grandchildren deserve nothing less.

And, therefore, I would ask of you two things.  First, as a community of faith, we must commit ourselves to prayer and fasting, that wisdom and justice may prevail, and religious liberty may be restored.  Without God, we can do nothing; with God, nothing is impossible.  Second, I would also recommend visiting www.usccb.org/conscience, to learn more about this severe assault on religious liberty and how to contact Congress in support of legislation that would reverse the Administration’s decision.

I call upon each of you to join me and the Bishops of the United States in speaking out on this violation of religious freedom and conscience by contacting your U.S. Representatives and our U.S. Senators.  Every Catholic has the responsibility to promote the dignity of human life and religious freedom.  If we do not make our voices heard, no one else will.  Let us work together to preserve the freedoms our forefathers established in our Constitution!

Sincerely yours in Christ,

 

Most Reverend Robert J. Carlson

Archbishop of St. Louis

 

Both the second reading and the Gospel today speak to us about preaching.  Paul writes to the people of Corinth, “If I preach the gospel, this is no reason for me to boast, for an obligation has been imposed on me, and woe to me if I do not preach it.

 

In Mark’s Gospel, Jesus tells the Apostles, “Let us go on to the nearby villages that I may preach there also.  For this purpose have I been sent.”

 

When Father and I were ordained, we knelt before the Archbishop.  We placed our hands on the book of the Gospels and he said, “Receive the Book of the Gospels, whose herald you now are. Believe what you read, teach what you believe, practice what you teach.”  In just a few months our seminarian Ray will hear these same words when he’s ordained to the transitional diaconate.

 

That’s our call; to believe the Gospel; to teach the Gospel; and to practice the Gospel.  It’s also your call.  Saint Francis told his disciples to always preach the Gospel and if necessary to use words.  All of us, ordained or not, preach the Gospel by the way we live our lives.  You shouldn’t have to walk around with a Bible in your hand for others to know that you’re a Christian.  That’s what the Archbishop is telling us today.

 

Sometimes I wonder what it takes to make Catholics mad.  I know, Jesus told us to turn the other cheek; to love our enemies; to return good for evil.  But sometimes even Jesus lost His temper.  He turned the money-changers tables over in the temple.  He called Peter, the man He chose to form His new Church, Satan.  He called the Pharisees hypocrites.  There are some things that even Jesus won’t put up with.

 

We live in a society that does its best to discourage us from following our Christian faith.  Sit down in front of the television some evening with a list of the Ten Commandments.  Then check off each one as you watch it being broken.  I promise you you won’t have to watch very long.

 

The thing is, I’m not so sure that most of what we see and hear in the media is malicious.  A lot of it is probably just ignorance.  I wouldn’t say that every television producer is anti-Christian or anti-Catholic.  They just don’t know any better.  Besides, a lot of the really offensive stuff gets good ratings where wholesome shows are often ratings flops.  Since television networks live off commercials and they charge more for more popular shows, the networks sink to the lowest common denominator.  That’s one thing.

 

But when our government, which we pay for with our tax dollars, deliberately attacks our beliefs, that’s something else altogether.  And that’s what we have here.  The Department of Health and Human Services is saying, “Sorry, Catholics.  We don’t care what you believe.  Your employees are going to have birth control, abortion-causing drugs, and sterilization.  And you’re going to pay for it.”

 

Can you imagine the outcry if the Amish were forced to connect their homes to the electric grid?  Every person of faith would be offended and demand that such an order be rescinded.   Or if Muslim hospitals (if there were any Muslim hospitals) were told they must serve pork to their patients and employees?  There would be serious ramifications.  It would never happen.

 

But, even in an election year, our government thinks it’s ok to impose their will on Catholics and other Christians.  Why would they do that?  Because they don’t think we’ll respond.  History shows that they’re right.  Roe vs. Wade has been the law of the land since 1973.  That’s 39 years.  Millions of unborn babies have been murdered in nearly four decades.  The Church has railed against Roe.  Every year thousands of Christians, not just Catholics, march on Washington, DC.  Right here in Saint Louis, Archbishop Carlson leads demonstrations in front of the local abortion mill.  But the demonstrators are a tiny percentage of all Catholics.  When election time rolls around, we keep reelecting the same pro-abortion candidates.  That wouldn’t happen without the votes of so-called “pro-choice Catholics.”  Why would politicians think that we would turn against them now.

 

But notice that the Archbishop and all the Bishops haven’t said anything about voting.  What they’re asking us to do is listen to Paul’s words.  “Woe to me if I don’t preach the Gospel”.  Stand up for your faith!  Write to Washington and tell them you won’t sit still and watch your religious rights be taken away.  Ask your friends and family to do the same.

The Archbishop said, “Our parents and grandparents did not come to these shores to help build America’s cities and towns, its infrastructure and institutions, its enterprise and culture, only to have their posterity stripped of their God-given rights.”  That statement should have special relevance for this church.  The immigrants who built this church by hand, brick by brick, then built it again when the tornado blew it down, would be mortified to see what’s happening today.

 

You and I have been given the privilege of keeping their memories alive in this historic church.  But it’s going to take more than just new boilers, and new air conditioners.  Without our faith, this is nothing but a big, old building.

 

Archbishop Carlson is asking you to honor their memories by standing up to anyone, including the United States government, who tries to take your faith away.  “Woe to all of us if we don’t preach the Gospel.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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